Aw look, he's just a harmless creature! note
"I think their attitude is more that of the cyclone, which comes with the gracious purpose of cooling off a sweltering village, and is not aware, afterward, that it has done that village anything but a favor. ... People who blame a cyclone, do it because they do not reflect that compact masses are not a cyclone's idea of symmetry."
A specific species of Anti-Villain
: a creature that could be called monstrous, but can't actually be viewed as evil, since it lacks any actual malice.
This is not to say that they're not a threat; they're usually a literal monster, and if they're not dealt with, many people will die. It's just that, in theory, options besides killing the monster exist.
Note the difference between a Reluctant Monster
and a Non-Malicious Monster is that the Non-Malicious Monster is always an antagonist; the Reluctant Monster
can be a protagonist. In addition, the Reluctant Monster
is usually sapient or can sense people's responses to its monstrosity (see, e.g., Casper the Friendly Ghost
). The Non-Malicious Monster is more along the lines of a completely instinctive beast with no sapience; in other words, it's just reacting to stimulus in incredibly dangerous ways without bearing malice towards anyone. Imagine a 100 foot tall rottweiler if you will. If they do have any sapience, it's a case of being Obliviously Evil
. Typically True Neutral
Certain portrayals of Eldritch Abominations
go out of their way to portray the Abominations as, well, dangerous only because we're in the way. Remember the last time you cared about the bugs you step on when walking in your yard?
Sometimes compared to a more normal villainous
character, frequently a Corrupt Corporate Executive
, to make the distinction between "monster" and "evil" more explicit and obvious (although authors using this particular variation should be warned that said normal bad guy is especially prone to becoming a Designated Villain
). Expect early victims to be Assholes
for the usual reasons: we don't feel as bad about a giant dick being killed, and it doesn't hurt any sympathy we may have with the monster.
See also Monster Is a Mommy
, a Sub-Trope
of when the monster in question is fully justified or even doing objective good in its monstrous actions. See also Why Isn't It Attacking?
When the non-malicious behavior is noticed.
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Anime and Manga
- Some of the Arrancar in Bleach are like this. It's explained that the process of becoming an Arrancar removes a Hollow's Always Chaotic Evil nature and gives them their sense of reason back. Most of the Arrancar we see are bastards anyway, but there's a few exceptions (Nell and her friends, Starrk and Lilinete, some say Harribel as well).
- Harribel and her Fraccions' actions at the end of the whole Aizen thing - and the backstory as to how and why they came together (while they were still standard Hollows) proves it.
- The giant beast in Tower of God in the 21st floor's test. It doesn't do anything, except belly-flop. You don't want that thing do belly-flops!
- Most of the citizens of Makai (demon world) in Rave Master fall under this trope.
- Some demons in InuYasha, like Jinenji.
- Android 8 from Dragon Ball. He looks just like Frankenstein's Monster and he was built to be a killing machine, but he's a kind gentle soul who doesn't like to hurt others, but you'd better not ever try to kill his friends.
- Subverted with Androids 17 and 18 in that, while thought to be murderous sociopaths in light of their alter-egos from Trunks' horrible future, not only are they not exactly murderous towards anyone not named Dr. Gero, which would play this trope straight, but they don't even really come off as sociopaths.
- Played straight later on with Super 17 in GT, who's a strange cross between Brainwashed and Crazy Android 17 and his Evil Knockoff, with twice the size and seriousness of either and a very Evil Laugh. While there's far less of a conscience, far more power, and more ego on the surface with Super 17 than the original, he still doesn't really shoot to kill anyone not named Dr. Gero during his Curb-Stomp Battle with the Z-Fighters, and it even takes a while to get there in his ensuing battle with Goku, the guy 17 was originally programmed to kill in the first place, even though his combination of Energy Absorption and Strong as He Needs to Be gives him a clear upper hand.
- The Gundam 00 movie, Awakening Of The Trailblazer, has an example. The ELS learn about things through assimilation, and combining their forms together is merely an efficient form of communication. Humans find assimilation to be a very painful way to die. This leads to the unfortunate situation where the ELS are a peaceful race looking to learn about and communicate with humans, and don't understand why humanity is trying to kill them for doing so, while humanity thinks it's defending itself against a hostile invasion.
- It's unclear whether the ELS even recognise themselves threatened, or if they just perceive the violence as a part of human communication, and respond in kind. The whole concept of verbal intercourse is completely incomprehensible to them after all, whereas battles are physical affairs like their assimilation.
- Subverted by Berserker in Fate/Zero. He seems at first, like Fate/stay nights Berserker, to be rage personified without actual malice, but is revealed to have a very personal grudge against Saber.
- The Marvel Comics Captain Ersatz of King Kong, Gorgilla, falls into this category.
- Another Marvel story involved Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch confronting a giant extra-dimensional beast rampaging around the city. The monster seemed almost unbeatable, but then Strange reads its mind. As it turns out, the rampage was just a reaction to being plucked out of its home realm and deposited in a strange world; it was scared, lonely, and simply wanted to go home. Strange complies, ending the threat.
- One possible interpretation of Bizarro.
- The Batman villain Humpty Dumpty seems to be mentally retarded, but he has a knack for analyzing mechanical systems and figuring out how to subvert or disable them. After the deaths of his parents and constant verbal abuse from his grandmother, he started sabotaging random machines out of irritation, but he doesn't understand that this sabotage can get people killed. Even when he eventually "took apart" his grandmother, he did so in a misguided attempt to find the root of her meanness and fix her.
- The embodiments of the Elements of Harmony in Elementals Of Harmony. They range from neutral to friendly, but are breaking the universe by existing. Two actually commit suicide when they learn this.
- The only ones that have to be fought head-on merged with ponies and were twisted. Loyalty merged with Scootaloo and lost it after being rejected by Dash, and Magic merged with Twilight and drove her existing tendency to fix everything with magic and Control Freak issues Up to Eleven by giving her enough power to fight two planeswalkers and Luna.
- The first chapter of Imperfect Metamorphosis ends with Rumia being disintegrated by a Blob Monster, which then takes a twisted version of her as its form and heads straight for Eientei and almost destroys the place in the ensuing battle. Turns out Rumia is still alive after being absorbed, the absorption was the only way said blob could move and communicate, the transformation was entirely involuntary, it went to Eientei to talk, and the battle was in self-defense after being attacked by half a dozen trigger-happy Blood Knights. Naturally, things get much worse from there.
- King Kong. As a description of how this trope fits would be akin to a plot synopsis, we recommend reading the page on King Kong instead.
- Possibly The Thing (1982). As much as a nightmare inducing assimilatory monstrousity it is, there is no indication that it is doing anything other than acting as any organism does: reproducing and trying to remain alive.
- Lampshaded at one point in the DVD's commentary.
- Mighty Joe Young as well.
- When Godzilla is portrayed as an Anti-Hero, it's usually as one of these.
- The mutant from The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. As Betty puts it: "I don't think it ever meant to kill. It just didn't know not to."
- The Ymir of 20 Million Miles To Earth just wants to be left alone. The fact that it's continually growing and is wanted by the government to figure out how it survives on Venus leads to it being poked. The Ymir does not like being poked.
- According to Word of God, the Cloverfield monster is not only a Non-Malicious Monster, it's also an Enfante Terrible. J.J. Abrams, the producer, said "He's a baby. He's brand-new. He's confused, disoriented and irritable."
- The Kraken from Pirates of the Caribbean only ever attacks ships when Davy Jones wakes it using a massive hammer. Wouldn't you be a little cranky too?
- The xenomorphs from Alien, who only ever kill and face-rape because it's in their nature, rather than because of malice.
- The Golem from the 1920 silent movie classic The Golem. He is treated as a monster by the humans, but at closer watch, he is only misunderstood (he is mute, after all) and dumb.
- Zigzagged in the Terminator franchise.
- Most Terminators, despite their calculating and merciless nature aren't malicious or sadistic. They're machines designed and programmed to carry out specific tasks in the most efficient manner possible and are no more likely to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on anyone than a calculator. In the Directors cut of Terminator 2: Judgment Day it's revealed Skynet ensures it's models are designed not to learn too much when sent out alone, as it doesn't want them thinking for itself. So when Arnie's T-800 has this fixed, the Terminator actually learns the value of human life.
- This seems to not be the case with the T-1000 in T2, who carries out his killings with deadly cold sadism. The T-X from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines also displays similar signs of sadism. This implies the more advanced models are either designed to enjoy their "work" or are just naturally inclined toward sadistic tendencies.
- While not necessarily presented this way in the source material, Frankenstein's Monster tends to get this treatment in modern media, since he was given a disfigurement, an abnormal brain (in most versions), and then spurned by the person that created him. The only people he befriends are those that can get past his appearance.
- Jeff the giant worm from Men in Black II.
- The T. rex and Dilophosaurus in Jurassic Park are simply carnivorous animals that only eat people because they are easy prey. Additionally, they are only shown eating people we're not supposed to sympathize with (in one case, it's even Played for Laughs) and, given the opportunity, the T. rex goes after other dinosaurs instead of the humans. The raptors, on the other hand, are shown to be capable of sadism.
- The titular monster in Julian May's story Dune Roller. Long ago, it crashed to Earth, with many small parts of itself (its "children") being widely scattered. It doesn't go out of its way to harm other creatures, but if you get in its way when it tries to reabsorb its children, it will go Mama Bear on you.
- Arguably, the Great Old Ones and Outer Gods in the Cthulhu Mythos - either they are simply far too powerful to even register humans as worthy of moral consideration, or they have no comprehension of lesser life or, in the extreme cases, anything else at all. Their actions are not malicious in a strict sense, as they scarcely notice us. Azathoth is a pure example, being a blind, deaf god who will destroy all creation, but completely mindless - he does not know what he is doing, and is really more akin to a single cell than a sentient being.
- Subverted by the Outer God Nyarlathotep, who is every bit as powerful, but is fully aware of the relationship between himself, humanity, and the rest of the cosmos, and manipulates mankind.
- In the Dresden Files, newly-made Red Court vampires and White Court vampires whose demon has just awoken can be this.
- Many wizards don't have guidance when they come into their power (mid-teenage years). They don't know how not to use their power, or the consequences of misusing their power, and start down the paths to being warlocks (wizards of substantial caliber who violate the laws of magic). Many warlocks are malicious, and Harry has brought a few of those down himself, but he's really disturbed by the White Council's zero-tolerance policy towards this trope. He views Molly as this when he presents her to the White Council, and manages to get her put on probation instead of executed on that count, claiming he can teach her how to use her power for good.
- The main shock troops of the Yeerks in Animorphs, the Hork-Bajir and Taxxons, only act with malice when controlled by their parasitic masters. The Hork-Bajir, despite having enough blades on their bodies that they have been described as walking Cuisinarts, are actually peaceful herbivores who use all that hardware to strip tree bark, and are actually quite friendly. The Taxxons are more dangerous, but not maliciously so - they are cursed with a permanent all-consuming hunger that makes them desperate for food, and will even eat themselves if necessary. They simply can't help it.
- Also, the Howlers. When Jake morphs into one he's expecting the instincts of some insane killing machine, and is shocked to discover that their minds are more similar to playful dolphins—the only reason they kill is because Crayak has kept them from realizing that their victims are any more sentient than a video game character. The particular band the Animorphs are fighting actually get destroyed as soon as they realize the truth, since Crayak can't let this knowledge spread to the rest of the species. They get some of it anyway, forcing Crayak to abandon them as shock troops.
- A group of cannibals in Galaxy of Fear turn out to be this. Even the protagonists go from fearing to pitying them.
- In the Japanese novel Another we have two. The first is a curse which kills off students and teachers in a particular classroom and their immediate relatives. The second is an extra member of the class, a different person every year, who is Dead All Along, which is the cause of the curse. Neither could be considered actively malicious. For one thing, the "extras" aren't even aware of their status and mean no harm. Their mere presence, unfortunately, is what triggers the curse. As for the curse itself, it's trying to do the same thing the human characters are, root out the "extra", but simply does not discriminate between targets while trying to get the right one.
- Despite the fact that nearly every space-going civilization has demonized it as evil, the Swarm Mother and its "children", from the Wild Cards series is essentially just a mindless, city-sized predatory space-going omnivorous mushroom who destroys whole ecosystems solely because it needs biological material with which to reproduce. It has all the malicious intent for the civilizations it destroys as a car windshield has for a bug.
- The buggers in Ender's Game only kill humans because they don't realize that humans are intelligent, thinking beings, instead seeing them as another bug colony to be captured.
- In the short story "Elegy for a Demon Lover" (part of the The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison Booth), Kyle realizes that even though Ivo is (obliviously) a life-force-draining incubus, "he did love me. To him I was the world."
- The horta from Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Devil in the Dark". Its apparent unprovoked attacks against the mining colony (and two crew members) turn out to be because the colony was destroying its eggs, which they thought were nothing more than worthless silicon spheres. After Spock is able to deduce this by speaking to the creature, peace is made (and the young are actually able to help the colony dig up precious ore).
- The Mutant Dinos of Dino Attack RPG. Although the Maelstrom drove their urges to destroy, the dinosaurs themselves were not actively malicious and more akin to confused animals acting on instinct.
- The Tyranids of Warhammer 40,000 have no malice to them whatsoever. They reduce entire biospheres to bare rock because they need to eat, and are essentially nothing more than a rapidly-evolving swarm of intergalactic locusts. But because they divide the entire universe into "us", "food", and "inorganic matter", there is no way to deal with them other than to kill them or get out of the way...and planets are rather restricted in their movement.
- The Chaos gods in Warhammer and 40K really don't care what happens outside of the warp, and indeed spend the vast majority of their attention on fighting each other (they are Chaos, after all). If a bunch of mortals want to commit unspeakable actions in their name, then why not? "And maybe we'll give these mortals a few "gifts" as well; it might be funny."
- A lot of monsters in Dungeons & Dragons have their alignment listed as True Neutral, because they're basically oversized plants or animals which may or may not have supernatural powers. Since they're not sapient, they can't make moral judgments. The ultimate example of this may be the Tarrasque - a giant reptilian monster, nearly indestructible and as large as D&D size measurements get (Colossal), which rises from its slumber every few centuries to cause untold havoc as it eats everything in sight. As it digests you and your entire village And Your Little Dog Too, you can take comfort in the fact that it bears no ill will towards you.
- Most of the alien enemies in Half-Life are just hungry animals that are very disoriented and confused from being abruptly teleported away from their home, including the unspeakably horrible headcrabs. Half-Life 2 introduces the antlions, which are again Big Creepy-Crawlies which just see humans as food.
- Many of the Colossi from Shadow of the Colossus, with special mention to Phalanx, the 13th Colossus
- Thresher maws in Mass Effect are giant wormlike creatures that are highly territorial and aggressive, though non intelligent. Standard protocol for dealing with them involves the local equivalent of tanks. Lots of them.
- The Thorian is claimed to be one of these before fighting it, a giant sentient mind controlling plant is going to have to die, especially when it strongly refused any POSSIBILITY of making peace with the others and generally viewed them as expendable thralls.
- Elementals from MARDEK don't attack so much as leak energy when disrupted. Not that it doesn't hurt.
- The Sasquatches from Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare. "We eat BERRIES and MUSHROOMS, you fool!
- The Monster from some SimCity games may be destructive, but is noted in the manual as not probably acting in malice. The Monster's just ignorant of the damage it's causing.
- A couple of the antagonists of Star Control.
- The Mycon, a race of sentient fungus, are so alien in their thinking that it's hard to ascribe any malice to their actions, even when said actions involve turning life-bearing planets into volcanic wastelands. Talking to them, it's readily apparent that they are either completely mad, or just so different that doing this is just their nature. It's also implied that they aren't natural creatures, and were created by ancient aliens as a terraforming device before they went haywire.
- The Slylandro Probes. The Slylandro people themselves turn out to be perfectly friendly and peaceful creatures who wouldn't harm a fly - and couldn't; they are sentient pockets of gas and can't interact physically or leave their gas giant planet. So they bought some handy self-replicating probes from the Melnorme to explore the galaxy and meet new friends for them. But they are new to this computer thing and set the priority of the self-replicating behavior much too high. Now the probes hail your ship, give you a cordial greeting, and then try to reduce your ship to raw materials, becoming the game's Goddamned Bats in the process.
- The Hulking Shyster from A Moment Of Peace is an absolutely massive monster who can't hunt or kill anything because he's debilitatingly shy.
- Many SCPs qualify, but special mention goes to SCP-053, the girl who makes you try to kill her if you look at her.
- An episode of Dexter's Laboratory featured an underground monster who couldn't get any sleep with all the noise of civilization, so he went up to the surface to ask humanity to quiet down. Naturally, the humans freaked out at the sight of a monster, and one thing led to another...
- Megas XLR has a big, grim, dark, evil species of rhino-like monsters...however, that was just because they were being mind-controlled; in reality, they were cultured, gentlemanly creatures.
- In the film version of How to Train Your Dragon, the dragons are raiding the Viking village for food because they're being forced by a larger dragon to feed it or be eaten themselves. Once the larger dragon is killed, the other dragons are more than happy to coexist with the Vikings.
- Vikings have ships and nets and can probably catch more fish in a day than a dragon could dream of!
- In the an episode of Powerpuff Girls example, the girls discover that the slime monster was only tearing Townsville apart because it was looking for its lost cat.
- In "Super Zeroes", a monster begins destroying Townsville, and the girls start changing into their new hero identities. By the time they're done, night had fallen and the monster had suddenly lost interest in destroying the city. The next morning, the monster resumes his rampage, and the girls begin their journey to confont him. However, they all run into inconveniences that held up their arrival, and the monster eventually stops his path of destruction again at night (even checking his watch as time passes). Finally, when the girls actually confront him and prove ineffective against him, the monster explains that the reason he was destroying the city and drawing the girls out to fight him is because he was taking up a tradition back at his home island.
- The Teen Titans episode "The Beast Within" has Beast Boy turn into the Beast, which plays the part of the Monster of the Week until misunderstandings are cleared out and the real culprit apprehended.
- The second My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode has Twilight and friends come face to face with a Manticore. They attack the beast, which is acting in a threatening manner, before Fluttershy yells for them to stop. She then cuddles up to it and finds a thorn in it's paw, which she removes. Everypony else is amazed by this.
- Fluttershy is a master at dealing with this trope. When a dragon's hundred-year nap threatens to cover Equestria in smoke, she gets it to leave simply by firmly telling it about what will happen to the ponies (after making it burst into tears). When Cerberus starts rampaging through Ponyville, Fluttershy calms him with belly rubs and says he's just a big dog that got out of his yard. And she beats a cockatrice in a staring contest by angrily demanding what would its mother think.
- The Parasprites, like any Explosive Breeder, are only concerned with food and breeding, and even then they weren't too bad until Twilight's botched spell caused them to eat everything except food.
- Maybe the changelings, depending on whether they feed on love as a food source or as simply something to make themselves more powerful. If the former, then they'd view the ponies (who have love out the wazoo) as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
- Even Cerberus as well. Seriously, that Cerberus. He might be a three-headed demonic dog the size of a two-story house that guards the entrance to freaking Tartarus, but he's still a dog. After giving him a belly rub and throwing a stick for him, he's several tons of putty in the ponies hoofs.
- Animals, particularly large mammals, like bears. They're not hostile to humans. Humans, being large primates at the top of the food chain, are typically much more dangerous to other animal species than those animal species are to them. Even so, there is cause for alarm when bears start digging through human trash: if they get used to the idea of dumpsters as a food source, they'll be a dangerous nuisance until they're killed.
- Enemy soldiers. No matter how much you've been told that they are inhuman, evil, etc. they've been told the same things about you.